Four years ago, Shannon MacKenzie was planning on becoming just another freshman at Michigan State. A solid club gymnast, MacKenzie didn’t really consider competing in college, and since most of her family had gone to school at Michigan State, it just seemed natural that the Midland native would become a Spartan too.
But during her senior year of high school, a judge at one of MacKenzie’s club competitions told MacKenzie to think about walking on at Michigan.
“I had been to one college competition in my life before I came to school,” MacKenzie said. “I went down to Ann Arbor, took one look at it, and decided that this was the place for me.”
MacKenzie couldn’t have made a better choice.
The senior has gone from a walk-on to becoming a significant contributor on one of the nation’s perennial powers. During Mackenzie’s career, the Wolverines have taken home four straight Big Ten Championships and qualified for four straight NCAA Championships.
Individually, MacKenzie has been a two-time All American, a three-time All-Big Ten honoree and a three-time scholastic All-American.
Michigan coach Bev Plocki provided MacKenzie with the ultimate compliment earlier this year when she said that “Shannon was the most improved gymnast” in her 13-year career as a coach.
In her first three years in Ann Arbor, MacKenzie was penciled in only as a beam specialist, but after numerous injuries hit the Wolverines early this year the senior stepped up in January and competed in the all-around competition for Michigan.
MacKenzie’s career almost came to an abrupt end last Saturday at the NCAA Northeast Regional Championships at State College.
Trailing Iowa going into the last rotation, the vault, Michigan needed to score .2 higher on the vault than whatever Iowa scored on its last rotation, the floor exercise.
MacKenzie once again stepped up for Michigan, as she scored a clutch 9.8 on the vault to propel the Wolverines past Iowa and into the NCAA Championship field.
“I knew we were close to Iowa, and I think I knew more than I was supposed to,” said MacKenzie, whose teammates said after the meet that they didn’t know how close the meet was. “We all needed to hit, and we did it. That’s what counts.”
MacKenzie and the Wolverines have one more chance to hit their routines two weeks from now at the NCAA Championships.
Michigan finished second in the nation when MacKenzie was a freshman, sixth when she was a sophomore and third last year.
“I’ve been preparing for next week to be the end of my career for some time, so I want to go out and hit my routines. But more importantly, I want the team to do well.” MacKenzie said.
Even if MacKenzie and the Wolverines don’t accomplish their goal of winning a national championship, the senior has been able to do something that she never imagined possible.
“I got my mom, a Michigan State alum, to sing ‘The Victors’ at our meets,” MacKenzie said. “That’s saying something.”